On Friday, we’ll flip the calendar over into the month of November marking the end of baseball season and the beginning of basketball.
For some, hoops season began Tuesday night with the return of the NBA, but for most of us in Mississippi it won’t officially get going until one of the state college teams takes the floor.
That will happen for Mississippi State this weekend as Rick Ray’s squad hosts Auburn-Montgomery in exhibition action Sunday at 3 p.m.
Just what can we expect from the Bulldogs this year? One thing that’s for certain is MSU should be improved.
Ray’s struggles during his first season in Starkville have been well documented. Attrition, suspension and injuries left the first year head coach down to just six scholarship players available on several occasions.
Arnett Moultrie and Renardo Sidney left a year early to declare for the NBA Draft, Rodney Hood and DeVille Smith both transferred out and Shaun Smith and Kristers Ziedaks were both dismissed from the team during the offseason.
Then came the injuries. Andre Applewhite and Jacoby Davis both missed the entire year while suffering preseason ACL tears. Injuries also kept State’s only returning scholarship players – Jalen Steele, Wendell Lewis and Roquez Johnson – out a combined total of 36 games. Steele and Johnson missed six more contests due to suspensions.
Junior college transfer Colin Borchert was also suspended during the Maui Invitational for a violation of team rules.
State suffered several lopsided losses last season and were considered the worst team in Southeastern Conference history by numerous outlets. But despite everything the Bulldogs had going against themselves, they were able to close out the season by winning three of the final five games to finish 10-22 and 4-14 in league play.
Mississippi State knocked off in-state rival Ole Miss 73-67 in Starkville and closed out the regular season with a 74-71 win over Auburn to finish one game ahead of the Tigers in the SEC standings. The Bulldogs went on to beat South Carolina in the SEC Tournament before bowing out to Tennessee in the second round.
This offseason has seen its share of struggles as well. Quantel Denson was released from his letter of intent and Travis Daniels failed to qualify, both were to be college forwards. The 6-foot-11 freshman center Fallou Ndoye was ruled ineligible for this season by the NCAA and both Steele and Lewis are no longer with the team.
But MSU should still be better this season. Ray is expected to have plenty more options on his roster and won’t have to break in five newcomers to Division I basketball as he did a year ago.
How good will the Bulldogs be? We’ll have to wait and see.